*cookie monster.

What do you do when your brother-in-law turns 40? Do you buy him Grecian Formula (and really, do click on that link. There's a three-step color-changing process that is just riveting) and Centrum Silver? Do you give him white roses of sympathy? Do you make him a mix tape?

No, you do not. Those things cost money (I don't have any blank tapes). What you DO is craft an enormous gift from butter, sugar, eggs, and confectioner's chips of various flavors, because these are things you have at home. You accomplish this whilst working a miracle on the time/space continuum, as you somehow manage to make a monstrous cookie (no worries, there are disastrous results to report) AND shower AND race back and forth from the kitchen to the living room to flabbergastedly watch Paula make Strawberry-Apricot Preserves with no strawberries in it AND feed the dog. Dammit. I forgot to feed the dog. Sorry, J! Better luck next time!

This recipe came courtesy of Emeril, who I usually avoid because his basic thesis seems to be that his food only tastes good if you're yelling at it. Frankly, I'd had a long day. I didn't need to be WHAM BAM, THANK YOU MA'AMming the dry ingredients. But I didn't want to do anything ordinary. M is kind of an extraordinary guy. He needed something special. Something tremendous. Something that could be constructed using items I already had in the cupboard.


With some addendums/caveats, here are the ingredients:

Flour, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, 2 eggs, light brown sugar, butterscotch chips (I didn't have white chocolate ones), bittersweet and semisweet chips left over from this endeavor, and salt. Addendum: Not making an appearance is the butter, which was softening on top of the stove as it preheated (to 375). It's a great way to speed up the softening process without melting, which I think changes things in the baking process. I don't recommend it. I'm just saying—snickerdoodles. They had the texture of biting through 45s.

SERIOUSLY, how old am I today?

Caveat: There was also baking soda. I just forgot to add it for the photograph. I creamed the butter and sugar together

with help from my dear friend Coppertone. In fact, I took a completely superfluous picture after I'd added the eggs, flour, and vanilla, because I wanted to show her off. She's so beautiful ...

Isn't she?

Then the chips went in. I eschewed the nuts because ... M is allergic. Or I was too lazy to go to the grocery store to buy nuts. You decide!

Emeril suggests baking all of this in a pizza pan, which would make the sort of pretty cookie cake you see in the plexiglas cases in the mall. I don't have a pizza pan, so I just sort of patted out a uniform rectangle on a baking sheet.

Then I shoved it in the oven and hoped for the best. Everything spread out like I knew it would, but it cooked perfectly in 25 minutes.

But here we encountered a comedy of errors. I cut out stencils to decorate the top with confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder. There was a moment where I'd cut out the letter "M" and then realized that does not a stencil make. Because I am an idiot. That's why the "M" is an outline and the "J" is an actual stencil. I should mention that I freehanded those letters. So pardon the 4-year-old-craft-project nature of them.

The cake cooled, and then I tried to move it to a tray (read: the piece of cardboard I ripped off the back of a sketch pad I bought when I was attempting some sort of weight loss regime and thought perhaps the secret was to make a kicky chart. No charts, kicky or otherwise, ever materialized). You know when you pick up a slightly warm cookie, all gooey and melty, and it collapses in a chocolatey heap? Imagine that on a massive scale. I tried everything I could to get that freaking behemoth off the generic Silpat, but I eventually had to just give it to M and beg to have it back at some future date.

I know, right? Wouldn't you want that for your 40th birthday? Not me. I want this. And this. And this.

*cheese pucks.

This constitutes my sincere, heartfelt apology for ever having strayed from Ina. She gave me gougères (freedom cheese puffs, for the French-averse) that were as pictured on that Wiki page. Round, fluffy, and light as air.

These little buggers came out more like something Wayne Gretzky would fancy on the ice.

I'll just wait for the applause to die down at my having made a sports reference. A completely obsolete one, no less. THANK YOU, CANADA.

I did everything precisely as indicated (and the recipe isn't even all that precise, with its "wait about 3 minutes" and its "bake about 25 minutes"). My oven isn't reliable, F&W! See evidence here. I know you're hedging your bets and all, but I need more to go on.

Not surprisingly for me, research shows I'm pretty sure things went wonky before I even got started. It seems simple enough: 1 cup of water, some butter, salt, 1 cup of flour, four eggs, and the blue cheese.

See, Ina uses MILK in her gougères. The recipe for which she does not grace us with on the Food Network Web site. She's all proprietary and secretive. But you can get it here, or you can probably find it with a sneaky Google search. Not that I'm advocating. Buy books!

You'll look at Ina's recipe, and you'll be all, "Noooooo, I can't doooooo it. It's paaaaaaaastry. It's haaaaaaard." Stop whining, you. It's easy! And she lets you use your food processor. She's no snob, with her house in the Hamptons with a "barn" out back that exists to serve its purpose as a kitchen/studio despite her owning, best I can tell, no animals whatsoever. She's everywoman!

But milk? Instead of water? That has to make a big difference for pastry! Whatever was I thinking? I soldiered on, boiling the water (bah!), butter, and salt together, then adding the flour (off the heat) in one fell swoop and stirring like a crazy person. Everything came together as advertised.

Then ... well, things got a little manic. I had that out-of-control feeling you get when you're hurtling down a hill on a sled and you pass that split second where things go from, "wheeee!" to "um ... ". After that, well ... it's all ... down ... hill.


I waited the requisite about 3 minutes for the dough to "cool slightly," but when the eggs went in, everything went ... spaetzle. You can see the non-smoothness here:

and, more incriminatingly, here:

That was as smooth as it was going to get. I wasn't too worried that they'd taste any different, because things were well-incorporated. It just didn't seem to want to hang together. The food processor version Ina does is DEFINITELY your friend here. Her dough comes out like buttery velvet.

I fretted for 25 minutes while my house filled with the smell of blue cheese and butter (not altogether unpleasant at 5 pm, less so at 5 am. Not ventilated, is my kitchen).

Things looked rather promising during the resting phase:

But I could tell already that they weren't quite right. The air tends to come out of these puffs a little bit after they've had a chance to lay around. In fact, in Ina's profiteroles recipe, which also uses the pâte à choux dough, she tells you to cut a slit in the side of the little puffs so the steam can escape, which keeps things from collapsing. These just never puffed.

Now I'm deflated.

Oh, but hay! Loyal blog readers? Ignore the above failure. I am a terrific, talented, accident-prone cook with an attention defecit! Don't you long for me to make you something tasty? If you buy the ingredients, I'll do it! E-mail

It's just my little way of saying thank you for reading these missives, that I love you all and would like nothing more than to spend your money for you.

You're welcome.

*rock the vote.

Only 23 more hours to decide my digestive fate!

The poll is on the right. What'll it be?

Remember: Vote for veggies, or the terrorists win.

*postcard from the veg.

What's a vegetarian who doesn't like vegetables? An ... arian? Oh dear, that sounds rather prison yard. I mean, no vegetables? That's oxymoron, cognitive dissonance, a contradiction. Oh, there it is. I'm a contrarian.

I should have been raised in Ireland, or with the Ingalls. They were forever griping about the peasant potato or lamenting having nothing but a hunk of bread and a chunk of cheese in the lunch pail. Pa Ingalls traipsed through snow to put oranges in his kids' Christmas stockings, for chrissake.

I was raised better than that, of course. MY pa would weather the drifts for Brussels sprouts, and the momster will eat ... well, she'll pretty much eat anything that grows out of the ground. But my best vegetable memories are summertime ones. Swatting flies around the massive garbage cans while we shucked ear after ear of corn; cutting the "bad parts" out of the white peaches to the point that they became bite-size, which made them a justifiable snack; and salivating over endless tubs of bumpy, beautiful tomatoes.

It's been in the 60s today, so whingeing about how my distaste for vegetables is somehow seasonal would be disingenuous. Although it should be said that most of the deceit of my childhood was perpetrated in the name of winter vegetables—yes, parents, we do remember this stuff (These sweet potatoes taste suspiciously like butternut squash. Put all the marinara you want on it, spaghetti squash is not, in fact, spaghetti. You can call it pizza, but I can see that the "crust" is a thin slice of zucchini.) .

Still, my body has been sobbing for nutrients lately, something fresh and healthy and preferably smothered with cheese. Thank you, Giada! First, I cut up zucchini, red bell peppers, onion, and—in an oddly specific moment—4 cremini mushrooms. The recipe also calls for summer squash, but the offerings at The Pub were shrunken and shriveled.

What? I don't have to be politically correct. I'm a child. I once sat at a dinner table for 4 hours to avoid eating my cabbage. WHICH, if memory serves, my sister actually asked for as part of her birthday dinner solely because she knew I hated it. Oh, L, you are a cruel one ...

God, get there already. Where was I? Oh, right. Vegetables. A smear of extra-virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and into a 450 oven for 15 minutes. Before:

and after:

No, I was not intoxicated when that photo was taken. It's ARTISTIC.

The remaining ingredients were frozen peas, penne, butter, Italian seasoning, pasta sauce, Parmigiano (and seriously, how long have I been hacking away at that?), smoked mozz, and, in lieu of fontina, provolone (snore).

A little boil on the pasta, and everything got mixed together and spilled into a baking dish. Want to know what happened with the butter? E-mail me at It's not for maternal ears. A mere 20 minutes later ...

I think the vegetables probably could have roasted a little longer. There was a decided crunch on them. But the flavors were good, and that pasta sauce was stick-your-tongue-in-the-jar fantastic. Not that I would do that.

All in all, it was good not great. Not precisely the thing one hopes for after a day that started with a flat tire and progressed to include two hours staring dumbly at Fox "News" at the car dealership while wondering why strangers feel compelled to shout their agreement at the TV screen. Hey you? Fifty-year-old guy who came with the mother he clearly still lives with? "John McCain is the only one who's going to stick to his word, I'll tell you that!" would go a much longer way toward confirming your talent for political punditry if you weren't CUTTING YOUR KNUCKLE HAIR WITH FINGERNAIL CLIPPERS.

You can't make this shit up, people.

*a mad loon rising.

Yeah, I know that's obtuse. Not as in "vague and intellectually-lofty implied reference." More like "weak, lazily constructed pun based on easy rhyming, stress, and tired ... ness." Buckle up, people. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

I'll head off the critics now and say there's a trip to the grocery in the weekly to-do list, so be gentle about the lack of green around the Woodside lately. I do think there's some lettuce in the crisper, but I'd wager it's neither crisp nor green. And Reagan's dead, so I can't really double-check the veggie credentials of wasabi mayonnaise. So that leaves eggs, cheese, and leftovers. Yeah, that's right, I'm fresh out of pride today.

Oh! Black olives. The detritus of two separate cans of black olives are ALSO in the refrigerator. Redemption!

Bring on the fixin's:

Nutmeg, cayenne pepper, black pepper, flour, salt, egg shells, butter, SERIOUSLY SHARP cheddar, and Parmigiano.

Back there, in the ridiculously awesome but unfortunately small orange enamel pot, is skim milk and melted butter. That was an experiment based on a sweet resource I found. The recipe I worked with tonight called for whole milk, and I only had skim. But the recommended substitution—1 cup of milk plus 2 tablespoons of butter—created a strange consistency situation I couldn't reconcile. I think milk is sort of like these two. Once you split them up, putting them back together is just ... lumpy and nauseating and possibly resulting in offspring named "Alabama Barker."

Aaaaaaaaaand, you caught me. Egg shells aren't an ingredient. I just got a little overzealous and forgot to take pictures.

Which brings me to yet another side subject. I know I may have fooled you up to this point, but I feel I must confess: My kitchen is not professionally lit. I know, right? For some reason, in this endeavor things went entirely off the photogenic track. Some of the images you are about to see are blurry, some are cast in hideous shadow, and some are dim. Not unlike the photographer. Scroll down with caution, is what I'm saying. Not suitable for minors. Or seeing people.

But! Guess what I did!

Aren't they lovely? I separated eggs like a pro. Those are cage-free, vegetarian-fed hens' eggs. It really does make a difference. They tumbled out like pockets of sunny softness. Into more Grandma china. Which I consistently put in the microwave, despite its metal rim, but which manages to survive my abuses and still look like a grownup interpretation of what Frances would have wanted with her bread and jam. And, since we're on the subject, did you see that butter dish above? That was a hand-me-down, too, and it's thick and crystal and throwback tremendous. It always makes me want to buy one of these. And a white terry robe, and a pedicure, and a bistro table and chairs, and a pulp-free glass of orange juice, and a man who reads the financial pages and hands me the style section.

Then there were the whites. They were boring.

While Coppertone beat the living crumbs out of the egg whites, I whisked together 1 tablespoon of flour with the skim milk over medium heat, then (off the heat) stirred in a smooth yolk, salt, cayenne, pepper, and nutmeg.

The yolk mixture stepped aside to cool, and I grated cheddar and Parmigiano. Which leads me to one of my favorite kitchen tools: the Microplane. Mine came in a protective plastic cover, so every time I use it I feel like I'm unholstering my dagger. Or something less violent. The best thing, though, is the pretty curtain it leaves behind:

ANYhoo. Whipped egg whites and the yolk base and the cheese get folded CAREFULLY together. Or, you know, haphazardly hacked at with a spatula until something like a mixture comes together. That all goes into a souffle dish (thank you again JLB!) that's been buttered and powdered with Parmigiano. Then onto a baking sheet and into an oven. It was preheated to 375, but I was instructed to crank it up to 400 once the souffle went in. I'm sure that's some sort of French magic.

Twenty minutes later ...

See? Cuz I'm a little bit mad hatter and a little bit loony, and the souffle was rising?

Yeah, it wouldn't hold up in court.

*fickle fridays.

I love:

I've tried just about every flat dinnerware piece I have to put my dirty utensils on, but have always been too cheap to buy anything specifically for that purpose. Then JLB went to Portugal, and all I got was this lousy spoon rest!

Kidding. Although this is an important note, readers: If you buy things for the Woodside, you too might be featured in this very forum! Unless you give me something horrible, like this. (Robert Irvine: I'm coming for you.) Then you will go the way of the Neelys, below. You have been warned.

I wasn't sure I was going to post this, because I didn't want to be all, "Look what I got! How do you like them apples?" But look! Go ahead. Arm wrestle for it.

I loathe:

I'm sorry. I want to like Gina and Pat. I suspect they are, in real life, incredibly nice and fun to hang out with. But Pat's facial hair is confusing and distracting, and Gina's just ... screechy. They can probably mitigate that as episodes go on. Sometimes I think people approach being on TV the same way they approach speaking to ESL students, or deaf people. Paula and Rachael never really recovered. Maybe they yelled so much at the outset that their hearing was permanently damaged. It's a theory. (Side note: How insane does Paula look in that picture? That is the look of a woman who's spent too much time in Wal Mart.)

Additionally, I would like to know the Neelys in the kitchen, not in the bedroom. Your cute-couple banter is sweet, but just make the food. Stop making out.

Here are some quotes from a recent episode (all courtesy of Gina, natch, and on the subject of the miniature Twix—pardon me, chocolate-covered caramel and wafer candies—going into the middle of the brownies).

"Just line them up like little soldiers. They think they're going to war, but they're gonna get eaten."

What in the name of the English language does that mean?

"The little soldiers are going in ... but they're not coming back."

Military personnel going away, never to return? Nice visual, Gina!

"Just line them up. They'll line up on your waistline the same way, though, so don't eat too many of these. You want to keep your man at home."

BLARGH. I have to go burn my bra now.

*truffle shuffle, part deux. a.k.a. bonbonus interruptus.

I know! You thought I mean "tune in tomorrow" as in "the next day." Clearly, you are unfamiliar with K time. Wherein fulfilling your panting expectation for dark chocolate deliciousness takes a backseat to playing Scrabble and watching J "hide" his bone in endless brilliant locations, including "in the middle of the floor" and "beside—not under—the chair."

Thursday night I came home and melted more chocolate over a double boiler, then dunked the refrigerated truffles in the thick richness. I had to work quickly, because the hot chocolate conspired to melt the truffles, so they could potentially look like I made truffles and then sat on them. Which I wouldn't put past me.

The recipe specifically said I should put the truffles in a 13- by 9- by 2-inch pan lined with foil, but I think next time I'll use parchment or wax paper. I didn't like how the foil gave the truffles little wrinkly bums.

Each one got a light dusting of kosher salt on top. Generic Woodside Grocery did not have any of this schmancy fleur de sel stuff.

The next morning, they all piled into a box for gifting.

Isn't morning light pretty? I should try to see more of it, as opposed to sneering at it from beneath the covers at some hour more appropriately referred to as "early afternoon."

And now, for the most important question of the day:


Nothing, that's what. Guilt must compel you to address the following:

1. Vote for J! He's adorable, and we like to win things.

2. Vote for my lifestyle choices! (See poll to the right.) I became a vegetarian months ago to address the acid reflux. Which worked, for a time. Now it doesn't so much (turns out there's only so much not eating meat can do in the face of massive Cabernet consumption), and ... frankly ... I hate how limiting it feels. I'm all, oooh, YUM. Then I can't decide if I'm just an unimaginative wuss.

So you tell me. Weak-willed and intellectually lazy, or justifiably bored?

Be nice.

*truffle shuffle.

This one's a CLIFFHANGER. A two-day process. A labor of ... chocolate. It seems ridiculous that something so dense and sweet would be named after a dirt-clogged fungus that's ... also dense and sweet. Mmmmmmmmmmmtruffles...

Oh! Hello there. Back to the task at hand. Ingredients:

4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate + 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate + 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt + 2/3 cup whipping cream + 1/3 cup sugar = well, I'm bad at math. But get this: I learned something!

Ok, catch your breath.

Turns out, if you have four ingredients, the way to make them spectacular is to manipulate them and then introduce them in stages. Sort of like dating. Or so I hear. Thanks to the remarkable Grandmother H., I have a terrific double boiler, into which went the chocolates. The recipe calls for either kind, but because it's my 5 billionth single Valentine's Day in row, I decided a combination of bitter and less than sweet was the way to go.

Although... ladies? Feeling blue on the day o' male forgetfulness and pressurized romance-making? Fill the house with the scent of melting chocolate. You'll be fighting off that creepy guy who walks laps around the woodside—wearing a wind suit and 1986 headphones while smoking a cigarette—in no time.

Don't even think about it. He's mine.

This is where things got a little hinky (do you see a pattern developing?). Sugar dissolved over medium heat, until things became an amber sort of hue:

The word "amber" always makes me think of Jurassic Park. Then again, I'm kind of a nerd. And there's a chance that may be a factor in the 6 billionth single Valentine's Day ...

Then the cream goes in, at which point caramel forms. Or ... brown ... sugar ... soup? I wasn't sure the consistency was quite right. But I decided caramelized sugar and cream could not really be a bad addition to anything.

I stirred the BS soup into the melted chocolate, and took perhaps the most drunken photograph of it possible. Minus the alcohol, plus extra blurriness.

I am on FIRE with the math here tonight, gentleladies.

Then into the fridge to chill while I tried out Hacienda, the Mexican restaurant that just opened up on the woodside.


thumbs up—salsa, cleanliness, location
thumbs down—saltiness, low (not short person friendly) seats, and sheer WATTAGE.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure location trumps all that, but I'm afraid that just means I'll be close to home and blind.

Then I returned to roll truffles in cocoa powder and chill overnight.

Truffle count? 25. Supposed to make? 32.

I hate math.

Tune in tomorrow for the rich dark chocolate conclusion!

*gnocchi gnitty gritty.

I don't know, friends. I don't know why the more tired I am, the harder it is to sleep. I don't know why J gets up every. single. time. the doorbell rings on TV, even though I have not now, nor ever, owned a functioning doorbell. I don't know why installing a sump pump under your house can suddenly inspire your yard to fill with water. I certainly don't know why this

became this.

And I don't know why the Italians are so freaking smart. You think pasta is good? You think potatoes are good? Only the Italians would put two and two together (which reminds me. I also do not know why I can quote entire episodes of The Golden Girls, but I can't perform simple mathematical equations. That, though, is one for the ages).

Rachael Ray, eat your heart out. This was a 12-minute proposition, max. A potato, flour, an egg, salt. That's it! AND, because I let Giada lead the way, I got to cook the potato in the microwave. Seven minutes, then its golden flesh mixed with a smidge of flour, salt, and a few tablespoons of beaten egg. And guess what I got from that? You wouldn't believe it if I told you.

DOUGH! I'm saying! It actually came together to form dough! I was speechless. I know, you are, too. Let's have a moment of silence. For potato dough and for the mental health of pop starlets everywhere.

I rolled out the dough (skills I retain from preschool), cut it into 1-inch lengths, and then, as directed, rolled it along the tines of a fork for the making of dimples.

And that is the bad picture of said dimples. I don't trust a food that starts out with dimples. It doesn't bode well for one's thighs. But I threw caution to the wind and gnocchi in the pot, where it boiled for exactly one minute, then floated to the top, begging to be plated. Meanwhile, remember this? Look:

I knew it would come in handy! For some reason, I can't handle pesto without tomatoes. I think their fruity lightness mitigates the oily sauce. They also make things ever so pretty.

Starchy and salty and sweet. And half a batch of dough in the fridge, begging for some brown butter. Take that, soured-laundry-flavored parsnips.

*a woman sconed.

I had tea with the queen! There were crumpets and scones and tiny finger sandwiches garnished with radish flowers and fairy dust! I was thin-lipped and polite and almost abrasively charming!

That was the idea, anyway. I decided to make scones because they're simple and drily delicious (that's where the tea comes in handy). And because Ina made them, and I'm trying to land a man like Jeffrey. He's all academic and adoring. I think I could get into that.

HOWSOEVER. This endeavor would require a trip to my most dreaded of all emporia: Wal Mart (shudder). I think they require you to surrender your frontal lobe at the automatic doors. I always go in there with vigor and purpose and squared shoulders and come out shaken, with chewing gum and dog bones and a sense that I dropped my dignity near the Sam's Cola.

Here are some things I saw at Wal Mart on an average sunny Sunday in February: a stricken man speed-walking in search of what I must assume was his lady companion, as his cart contained only moist towelettes and feminine hygiene products; a woman and her teenage son who glared pointedly at me, I think because they were convinced I was responsible for the melancholy looking sausage pizzas; an albino child riding shotgun on her grandmother's power chair; and some tremendous examples of modern-day haberdashery (write this down: sequined butterflies are the new black).

By that point I was so terrified that I fled with my kitchen trash bags—did you know? I already had some at home. FRONTAL LOBE, I tell you—and milk. And then something amazing happened. The surly cashier gave my disheveled appearance a cursory, exasperated once-over (she was expecting, what, Fergie?) and, as I went to swipe my plastic, I read the following on the digital read-out:

"Was your cashier pleasant to you today?"

She was not! She was dismissive and sighing, despite my being her first customer of the day! She drummed her fingernails to communicate her impatience with me! There was not room for all of that, so I hit the NO button and felt the empowerment flow. I had to give it back when the gatekeepers at the exit chastised me for not having my receipt at! the! ready!, but it was worth the short-lived thrill.

That's all you need! Flour, yellow cornmeal, milk, baking soda, dried thyme (I was fresh out of fresh), the sage left over from Parsnipgate '08, salt, pepper, onion (in place of scallions, which all went into the Super Bowl Pity Party), and, sneaking out stage left, funny cheese.

That is FUNNY CHEESE. I'll tell you what you can do with your "mild" cheddar, your "sharp" cheddar, your "supremely extra wicked sharp" cheddar. All must bow to the Seriously Sharp Cheddar. Thank you, Cabot, for brightening an otherwise otherwordly trip to the dairy case (where a woman smirked at me, conspiratorially, "They never have it, do they?" I have no idea who she was or what she was talking about. I agreed, discomfitedly, that they never, ever do.).

Everything gets mixed up in one bowl, and that's it! Dropped in tablespoonfuls onto a parchment-lined sheet, and then into the oven, in batches (snickerdoodle lesson learned), at 400 for 20 minutes.

They come out all golden brown and melty. Especially if you use more cheese than called for. I got a little wrapped up in the satisfaction of grating, and I am not one to waste some SERIOUSLY sharp goodness.

I may have eaten two in addition to dinner. And two again for breakfast this morning. Unless that's gross. In which case I stood on the sidewalk and passed them out to the needy.

*wanton wontons.

This should have worked out beautifully. Lots of effort, lots of steps, lots of back-breaking standing. There was standing. And yet, I failed again. And all because I forgot one teeny, tiny detail: I hate parsnips.


I have a vague memory of being force-fed them as a child on one occasion ... Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure mi madre didn't try that one again. She could sense the kiddie revolt solidifying, and it was a rare enemy that could focus the attention of all three F sibs toward a common goal.

But a wealth of cheese memories and slow-mo potato flashbacks conspired to yield root vegetable amnesia. First, the mushroom ragout.

I halved the recipe (thank heavens for small favors), so what you see in front of you is olive oil, butter, onion, garlic, sage, and a half metric ton of portobello caps and white buttons. Plus some whole canned tomatoes, draining. Now see here:

AcCURSEd parsnip. It even sounds evil. And—get this—I had to forage in TWO separate grocery stores to find them. Have you heard the one about the single girl who goes to the grocery store on a Friday night and pays $2.19 on credit for parsnips?

Yeah, urban legend.

Luckily, Clooney the Peeler made short work of their outsides, and after a quick chop they joined sage and a fluff of Parmigiano.

Olive oil and butter into the skillet, then onions for 5 minutes. Garlic, sage, and mushrooms go in, where they cook 15 minutes from this:

to this:

While the fungus took its sweet time dehydrating, the whole tomatoes got a chop. Then they, and their juices, joined the shrooms. As that happened, the wretched parsnips took a scalding. And well-deserved, I say.

After it endured its water torture, it went into the food processor with the sage and Parm to make a deceptively pretty puree.

Then ... the filling had to cool. Which took an absurdly long time. I'll admit, during the cooling process, I took a taste. The recipe had been extremely vague up to that point on the subject of salt, and I was worried I'd end up in the bland before time again. At that point, I thought, "Huh. That tastes weird." And motored blithely on. Wonton wrapper on a lightly floured surface ...

I must digress for just a moment to say that I'd never worked with wonton wrappers before. I'd originally wandered down this ill-advised path because I thought I'd make pasta from scratch. HAY. I don't laugh at you.

ANYway, I realized I don't actually own the pasta attachment for Coppertone, and I don't own the wherewithal for rolling it out by hand. So I went the wonton route. I expected them to be sort of ... sticky. Or unyielding. Instead, they feel like little squares of softness. I kind of wanted to go to sleep with one against my cheek. Don't worry, I didn't. And not those cheeks, dirty.

... and a tablespoon of filling on each. Then I smeared water along the edges (the woodside doesn't have a paint brush, much less a pastry brush), and sealed the little pockets with a kiss. I mean a fork.

Now here's another conundrum. The recipe makes 30 ravioli, so I expected to end up with 15. See there? 3 x 5 = a massive, baffling amount of leftover parsnippiness.

Into boiling water (in batches, no less! How much work did I do, right?), then topped with mushroom ragout and a sprig of sage for pretty.

The mushroom ragout seems really simple, but it was delicious. The ravioli was ... indescribable. I recommended this to J-Hop the other day, and now I know why it calls for confounding quantities of butter. They just taste terrible. There was something intriguing about the flavor combination, which is what convinces me that my reaction is probably a failure of palate sophistication. I was about six bites in when I recognized that huge-bite-chew-with-the-molars-avoid-all-contact-with-taste-buds-gee-I-suspect-this-would-be-better-coming-up-than-going-down gag from childhood.

It's in the fridge now, because I couldn't bear to bin all that work right away. And also because I'm waiting to serve them to the people responsible for this:

No thank you, I do NOT want a side of sobbing with my Who's the Boss? reruns.



my foodgawker gallery



I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.